ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION VISION
FOR THE HERITAGE QUARRIES RECREATION AREA
The Village of Lemont, Illinois owes much of its existence to the development of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, the Sanitary and Ship Canal, and the dolomite limestone quarry operations that prospered here until the turn of the 20th century. The success of the quarries was a significant driver of the region's economic development, but operations extracted a considerable toll on the local ecosystem.
Over time, public agencies like the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Village of Lemont, and Lemont Township, as well as individuals and private companies like The Forge, acquired neighboring parcels of the land in what is now known as the Heritage Quarries Recreation Area (HQRA).
Thanks to the foresight of public and private leaders over the last 100 years, the public has free access to recreational opportunities in the quarries. Residents and visitors canoe and fish in the lakes and canals, bike, walk, and run along the trails, picnic with family and friends, and enjoy the relief the outdoors provides us from the noise of our daily lives.
But we need to do more to care for this treasure. After mining in the nineteenth century degraded the natural landscape, too little effort has gone into restoring it. For many people, the quarries became a place for recreation and reflection. Sadly, others used them as a private dumping ground.
Once covered by wildflowers, prairie grasses, wetlands, and oak trees, this area became a mishmash of impenetrable thickets of invasive Honeysuckle, Buckthorn, Tree of Heaven, and other noxious plant species that crowd out natives and limit the livable habitat for hundreds of desirable animal and plant species. Efforts in the early 2000s by community members and corporate partners like CITGO were a good first step to a long-term solution. However, much more work is required to restore the area to a native state.
We believe in supporting a shared vision to restore and expand the native ecosystems in the HQRA. We all benefit when we improve woodlands, wetlands, and prairies. Restoration helps clean our water and air, reduce flooding, improve property values, encourage investment in our community, and improve the health of nature and people.
Our 20-year vision calls for transforming the Heritage Quarries Recreation Area into a place capable of supporting the diversity of native plants, animals, and fragile ecosystems, while remaining a welcome place for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the outdoors.
The Forge Charitable Adventures published this vision in February 2023 and began working with local stakeholders and environmental specialists to create an Environmental Restoration Plan.
We welcome input, ideas, and involvement from everyone. Download a copy of the Restoration Vision, get in touch, and get involved!